Curtis upbeat at start of hoops practice

Dwayne Curtis had already been through a lot of tough times in his career prior to suffering a stress fracture in his left foot Sunday night, which will sideline the All-SEC performer for a few weeks.

There was the transfer from Auburn after his freshman season, then sitting out a year by NCAA transfer rule, playing for one season but losing his brother after an auto accident during that season, then experiencing a coaching staff change at Ole Miss.

Before he sustained the stress fracture during the Rebels' third practice, Curtis, upbeat as usual, felt things were going well for the Ole Miss men's basketball team.

"It's all going great. Practices are going well," said the 6-foot-8, 275-pound junior Sunday night before the Rebels took the court again.

It is indeed a tough break for Curtis and for the Rebels at this point. Only three practices in and one of your veterans goes out, at least for a while. Curtis was one of two team captains last season, along with current senior guard Todd Abernethy, and his experience and leadership are counted on every day.

First-year Rebel head coach Andy Kennedy said last week that this is an important time in the development of Curtis as he tries to mold him into a tougher player on the court.

"Dwayne is a really, really good kid," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to get that fire to burn internally. It's great to be a nice guy except on game night. I want him to develop a competitive nature that transforms him into a team leader, somebody that demands more of his teammates. First he has to demand more of himself."

Kennedy says Curtis brings a lot to the court for the Rebels. At this point getting him back out on the court after healing up is a big key to the Rebels' upcoming season.

"He has ability. He's an angle scorer, a below the rim guy who really knows how to create angles to score," Kennedy said. "He has great hands and he has a very good feel on how to play. Those are things you typically don't see a lot in kids of his size. We'll try to put him into a position where he can best use those strengths."

So now with the injury, they will move on from here. It's all they can do.

Prior to the mishap, Curtis said the Rebels were already becoming accustomed to each other on the court, and he liked what he saw as the team continued to mesh.

"Getting used to each other. Getting used to going up and down the court," said Curtis of the Rebels' more fullcourt attack on offense and in practice as opposed to a halfcourt approach in the past. "We were running plays and learning them. There's been a lot of scrambling on defense too, lot of hustle and really getting after it. We're getting used to that, too."

Curtis, who dislocated a thumb a few weeks ago, was ready to have his best preseason practice yet after being in Oxford for two years following a season at Auburn.

"We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time," Curtis said of the approaching exhibition games – Nov. 3 vs. North Alabama and Nov. 6 vs. Delta State, both in Oxford. "They're coming up quick and we want to be ready."

For Curtis, unfortunately the injury could mean he won't be ready for those two non-counting contests. Perhaps by the time of the first official game on Nov. 10 in Oxford against Mississippi Valley State he can play. Kennedy says Curtis will not play until he is totally healed.

"It's unfortunate for Dwayne," Kennedy said. "We feel bad his season had to start this way, but injuries are a part of the game. We will always do what is in the best interest of the player, and we will make sure he is completely ready before he starts playing again."

For the 2006-07 Rebels and for Dwayne Curtis, that can't come too soon.

OM Spirit Top Stories